Your brain may be driving on automatic pilot and you can’t turn it off. The brakes are not working. You are driving too fast and the brakes are faulty. During the day the brakes may present themselves as anxiety and at night it can present itself as insomnia. A brain that has adequate brakes (ie. a strong “off” switch) can bring the speed down to relax and restore during the day and can turn off to 0 km/hr at night.
Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is part of the brain that controls the autonomic pilot which runs on autonomic pilot switch “on” (parasympathetic nervous system, ‘fight or flight’) and the “off” switch (sympathetic system- PNS- relax and restore response).
With insomnia there is a faulty off switch and the on keeps switching on. When you try to go to sleep, you might be able to fall asleep for a few hours and then around midnight your brain wakes up causing nocturnal awakening. In the morning after a few more hours of sleep you wake up early again.
We can control the off and on switches by practicing mindfulness. Practice of mindfulness allows us to become aware of our aroused “on” switch and our suppressed “off” switch.
With this awareness, we can be mindfully present in the moment and cultivate control over these “on/off” switches. We no longer have to be run by the “automatic pilot” of the ANS. Instead, through mindfulness and greater awareness, we can begin to learn how to boost the “off” switch and dampen the “on” switch and thus make the brakes strong enough to turn off the fast/hr insomnia brain.
Would you like to learn more about insomnia and how to begin to create greater awareness through mindfulness?